Illustration of a large fish with yellow and black stripes on its back and red fins.
Image courtesy of Emmanuelle Choiseau, © Bibliothèque Centrale, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris
European perch, Perca fluviatilis

More than three centuries ago, a French monk made thousands of drawings of plants and animals, traveling under the authority of King Louis XIV to the French Antilles to collect and document the natural history of the islands. These drawings were often the first ever recorded for each species and were completed in remarkable detail.

The illustrations were nearly lost forever during the tumultuous French Revolution, and the volumes compiled by Father Charles Plumier were discovered by chance, found serving as stools for the monks to sit on by the fire in the convent where he lived.

The illustrations are now safely held in a national library in France, but they have never been published as Plumier intended. Ted Pietsch, a University of Washington professor emeritus of aquatic and fishery sciences, and curator emeritus of fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, has published the first of several volumes showcasing the work of the French naturalist. After many trips to France and a bit of investigative work, Pietsch has compiled Plumier’s fish drawings in a book, “Charles Plumier and His Drawings of French Caribbean Fishes.”

Read the Q&A at UW Today »